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BWW Review: Jeff Harnar Brings the Past into the Present in CARRIED AWAY: JEFF HARNAR SINGS COMDEN & GREEN

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BWW Review: Jeff Harnar Brings the Past into the Present in CARRIED AWAY: JEFF HARNAR SINGS COMDEN & GREEN

In 1989 Jeff Harnar had a huge hit on his hands with a show called CARRIED AWAY Jeff Harnar SINGS COMDEN & GREEN. The reviews of this show were so amazing that it, rather, put Jeff Harnar on the map. He was able to stop waiting tables and make a living off of his performing. The show has a legendary status in the cabaret community, so why not do a 30th Anniversary encore of the cabaret show that springboarded the esteemed Harnar into a career that has spanned three decades? Jeff Harnar was not the only person to ask the question of why not, because audiences at Birdland Theater have been delighting to a mere handful of performances of this historic cabaret show.

It is, though, important to make a distinction. Carried Away is not a cabaret show. It may be playing a cabaret room, it may be performed by a cabaret artist, but this is no cabaret show.

Carried Away is a musical revue. And it should be treated as such, picked up by a producer and installed into an off-Broadway theater for a run of any length. This may, well, be the thirtieth anniversary of the first time the show was created and performed, but after all, there are time-honored musicals which get the revival treatment all the time (some of them every other year), including revues, and it is time for a revival of THIS show. This is theater at its very best, and 2020 audiences deserve to see it as much as the ones who were there to see it when it started in '89. Not only do audiences deserve to see it, Jeff Harnar deserves to do it because he has, most certainly, grown as a performer in 30 years, and the performer he is now is getting to live this material in completely new ways. After all, times have changed and this man has changed, attitudes and outlooks have changed, and Mr. Harnar is able to delve deeper into the meaning of songs, the interpretation of songs, his relationship to the characters in the songs and his relationship to the people in the audience. Carried Away is ready for a new generation of fans, and so is Jeff Harnar.

So anyone with a knack or a wish for producing, dig into those pockets and pocketbooks and take a moment to seriously consider that this work of art is ready for an off-Broadway residency where Harnar, Rybeck and Comden & Green can breathe new life into musical entertainment and the people who love it - because even though the source material is not new, this material is very much new.

With very little unscripted dialogue (and spot-on direction by Sara Louise Lazarus) Carried Away dives in at the top with one of the most famous musical numbers from one of the most famous Comden & Green musicals "On The Town." The infectious up-tempo number has Harnar bouncing all over the stage, relating to his audience, and making them laugh right along with their irrepressible host for the evening - only it isn't really Jeff Harnar to whom they are responding. This is some Pied Piper of Happiness, drawing them into a world where every song is one inventive skit after another. It's as though the flawlessly dressed Harnar is doing his own version of The Carol Burnett Show, in which every sketch is a musical number and he is playing all of the characters. Well, all of the characters except for one, because this is really a two-hander. With Alex Rybeck behind the piano, magical moments become a wizarding world as he and Harnar throw the perfectly structured script (frequently no more than song titles, sentences from songs and movie quotes) and tuneful tsunamis at one another, only to find them volleyed back with exquisite timing worthy of either a great comic or a star athlete. Between the two of them, Harnar and Rybeck keep their audience on their toes with no fewer than four astonishing and thrilling unbelievable medleys that would require a degree in rocket science to deconstruct, as well as a degree in exercise science to perform. Members of the audience last night were overheard to say "I'm exhausted just watching that - imagine having to DO it!"

It's not far off, but it IS far off. This is not exhaustion. This is elation. This is exhilaration. Carried Away Jeff Harnar Sings Comden & Green is as exquisite an evening of musical theater as a person is likely to get, even if they don't know the shows "Two On The Aisle" or "Fade Out Fade In" or "Subways Are For Sleeping." Oh, sure, everyone knows "Peter Pan" and "Bells Are Ringing" and "Wonderful Town" and there are those who love "On the Twentieth Century" and "Do Re Mi" but nobody knows "Straws in the Wind," and THAT is the musical from whence cometh the most interesting and topical song of the show! The audience reaction to a song written in 1975 that meets, shockingly, today's mindset had the audience in an uproar of laughter and sometimes shock.

Readers may have noticed, by this point, that not one song title has been named in this review. This writer has a song list in front of him but is abstaining from sharing one word from that list. Holding out hope that Carried Away might, could, will hopefully have a full-fledged sit down somewhere here in town, I wouldn't dream of letting go one single spoiler. Audiences deserve to ride the ride in real time, the way I did. I will simply confine myself to commenting that Harnar has left no stone unturned in his quest to compile the most comprehensive yet detailed, hilarious yet poignant, intricate yet simple, elegant yet base, honorable, respectful look at two of the industry's great genii. And in the process, he has introduced a new duo, a new pair, a new couple of genii. Harnar & Rybeck and Comden & Green are a great foursome, but not for bridge, not for mah-jongg -- this foursome is designed for maximum musical entertainment and absolute theatrical satisfaction.

Carried Away has completed its run at Birdland but you can learn all about Jeff Harnar by visiting his Website

BWW Review: Jeff Harnar Brings the Past into the Present in CARRIED AWAY: JEFF HARNAR SINGS COMDEN & GREEN BWW Review: Jeff Harnar Brings the Past into the Present in CARRIED AWAY: JEFF HARNAR SINGS COMDEN & GREEN BWW Review: Jeff Harnar Brings the Past into the Present in CARRIED AWAY: JEFF HARNAR SINGS COMDEN & GREEN BWW Review: Jeff Harnar Brings the Past into the Present in CARRIED AWAY: JEFF HARNAR SINGS COMDEN & GREEN BWW Review: Jeff Harnar Brings the Past into the Present in CARRIED AWAY: JEFF HARNAR SINGS COMDEN & GREEN BWW Review: Jeff Harnar Brings the Past into the Present in CARRIED AWAY: JEFF HARNAR SINGS COMDEN & GREEN BWW Review: Jeff Harnar Brings the Past into the Present in CARRIED AWAY: JEFF HARNAR SINGS COMDEN & GREEN Photos By Stephen Mosher


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